Within their team practices and group drills, the teammates began to identify with each other, and developed unity; their goals became interdependent, and in the process they formed aspirations and expectations together. And, as the teammates began to identify highly with the group and its goals, they gained camaraderie and satisfaction with the attainment of a goal. Even under certain circumstances, failure to meet a group goal also increased group bonding (as in that early-season loss to rival Michigan State). And when the teammates easily accepted a common goal (i.e. executing and minimizing mistakes of the I formation) and supported the actions required to reach it (practice, practice; drill, drill, drill), teammates felt great and recognized contributions of their teammates (a solid block, a hard hit, or a key interception).
And team unity also positively influenced the personalities, each player developed. As individuals, they became less self-centered, more giving. Simply, they cared about each other. And what Schembechler knew well was that membership in the group was paramount for security, achievement, competitiveness, and status. The team became “we” - forget about “I” or “me.” So, when Fritz Seyferth, a fullback, began sharing duties with a sophomore, he didn’t complain or say “Poor me.” Instead, he continued to work hard for the team.
Reggie McKenzie told the story about Preston Henry during one spring practice. On that day, Henry, a running back, had to practice on offensive maneuvers for both the first and second string offense for some 130 plays or so. “After practice, everyone ran sprints. Even Preston Henry. We all felt sorry for him. Absolutely no one on the team would have been upset if Preston Henry was excused from running wind sprints.”
With newfound cohesiveness, Michigan was able to mobilize its energies in their support of the group goals, which were to prepare physically (even if doing exhausting, unintelligible exercises like “slap and stomp”), so that on-field performance (a win) became second to none. Solidarity was important and expressed by the final core players who didn’t quit or leave the team. There was a sign on the wall that encouraged this ethos. It read, jokingly, “Those who stay will be champions. (One player who left the team named John Prusiecki added jokingly, “Those who leave will be captains of industry, lawyers, and doctors.”)
To be continued.